City should aim for greener buildings: Blue

Abbotsford council pushes for progress after staff balks at adopting energy-efficient standards

Even if Abbotsford’s not ready to embrace a greener building code, city staff and local developers will at least be nudged in that direction after a pair of councillors pushed for a more pro-active approach to energy-saving construction.

A University of British Columbia student scholar had been tasked with reviewing whether the city should take part in the BC Energy Step Code, a building standard that attempts to encourage new buildings to meet better energy-performance standards. Parts of the step code are already set for mandatory province-wide adoption in the coming years.

Pera Hardy, a master’s of architecture student whose report had been financed by a BC Hydro grant, suggested the city consider adopting the step code itself in order to boost local sustainability efforts and ensure new buildings are more energy-efficient.

But in a report to council, staff balked at the suggestion, recommending that the city instead take a “wait-and-see approach.” Council was told most municipalities that include aspects of the code in their own bylaws had more staff and a “fully developed ‘green’ mandate.”

Abbotsford has some environmental initiatives, but “limited dedicated resources” to implement a greener building code, council heard.

Coun. Sandy Blue, though, wanted a more active approach.

Blue proposed an amended council resolution that would formally encourage more awareness of, and building to, higher green-building standards.

The step code would still not be adopted, but the motion – which passed unanimously – suggests the city make more of an effort to encourage energy-efficient buildings that go beyond the minimum.

“There are a lot of developers that, especially if they are working in another jurisdiction, are already working on that,” Blue said. “I want to ensure that if we have a proponent who comes forward, who wants to move to a higher code, that we’re prepared to accept that.

“This is a really interesting time in our history. It’s an opportunity to take a leadership step.”

Coun. Patricia Ross agreed.

“I’m not really happy with just a wait-and-see approach,” she said. Ross said that if staff time was a major barrier to advancement, the city should consider that during budget meetings later this fall.

“If part of our issue is staff capacity, then I think we have to be ready,” she said.

“I’m not content with us just struggling to catch up with these changes.”


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